How Parents Should Deal With The Risks Of Genetic Disease

Your genes define your appearance and personality, from your hair color to your skin type and athletic abilities. At the same time, they also determine the risk of carrying several inherited diseases. In fact, many families have such medical conditions running through generations. Unfortunately, you cannot change your genes, proper awareness can help you deal with the situation better. Parents and expecting couples must know some facts to handle the risks of genetic diseases. Let us share some recommended precautions you must follow if an inherited condition runs in either side of the family.

Get facts on your family’s health history

Gathering facts on your family's health history is the best way to start. Collect information about your relatives, including your parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Check for major medical conditions such as various types of cancers and heart conditions. Dig deep into factors such as the age of diagnosis and cause of death of relatives suffering from such diseases. The risk factor increases if three or more close relatives had the same medical condition. Your ethnic background may also increase the risk of developing some inherited diseases. You may need to invest some effort in research, but it can be a lifesaver in the long run.

Know the potential risks

Lack of awareness is often a hindrance to the timely detection of inherited diseases in families. As a parent or a couple planning a pregnancy, you must know the potential risks. Inheritance patterns of some conditions are straightforward, but they may get more complicated for others. Conditions such as Huntington's disease, fanconi anemia, Marfan syndrome, and Neurofibromatosis type 1 may pass down to children even if one of the parents carries the gene. Such conditions are known as autosomal dominant single-gene disorders. The chances of passing these disorders to each of your children run at a whopping 50%. Conversely, both parents have to contribute to autosomal recessive single-gene disorders, such as congenital deafness, beta thalassemia, cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Tay-Sachs disease, and Sickle-cell anemia. If both parents are carriers, each child they bear has a 25% chance of getting the disease and a 50% probability of becoming a carrier. 

Talk to your doctor

Having three or more relatives with the same medical condition on one side of the family is a reason to worry. You must discuss the situation with your doctor to determine your risk of passing on the genetic condition to your children. Your doctor may recommend measures such as early and frequent disease screenings and genetic counseling. They may also guide you about implementing changes to your environment, diet, and lifestyle to reduce the risk. A genetic counselor is the best professional to seek recommendations regarding genetic testing, surveillance, preventive medications, and surgeries. Timely intervention can help you limit the risk of passing on the disorders to your children.

Genetic diseases are daunting because they run in families. But parents can be more aware and take proactive measures for risk reduction and prevention in their children and the next generations.

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